Pronounced “whip”, WIP is an acronym for work in progress. It’s another one of those words that is used in many different contexts and isn’t specific to knitting, but may still confuse the muggles given how much we tend to talk about them.
The thing about knitting is, for many of us the most exciting part about it is the WIP stage. That’s where all the knitting happens! Before it’s a WIP it’s just an idea – perhaps a pretty new shawl pattern we want to make, or a new sock technique we want to try – but as soon as yarn is looped around the needles, it’s a WIP. We work on it for hours and hours and hours until we have a lovely new FO (that’s a finished object – we pronounce each letter separately, “F” then “O”) to show everyone. Though we all enjoy the WIP stage – after all why else would we be knitting? – for some it’s a race to the FO status. These are called product knitters. They live to have the finished product in their hands (or on their feet, or around their shoulders, etc.). Others are process knitters – the whole point for them is to knit and they’re less worried about getting that FO. I am mainly a product knitter. I love the process too, of course, but what’s the point of putting in all that work if I don’t have anything to show for it?
There are variations on what exactly is considered “in progress” and how “finished” something needs to be before it’s deemed a FO. There is no consensus in the knitting community on the exact steps that transition a project from an idea to WIP to FO, and there is no need for one. It’s a very personal decision each knitter makes. The only time there needs to be any sort of group agreement on terms are in the cases of KALs (knit-a-longs) in which there needs to be a defined “start” and “finish” in order to qualify, though many are pretty laid back about how you determine “finished.”
For example, anything that is still on the needles, or has any more stitches to be made, is almost universally considered a WIP.
That definition can get a bit fuzzy in the case of modular knits, which are comprised of multiple parts knitted separately and have the appearance of being multiple FOs, but which are intended to be assembled together to create one larger FO. A popular example of this would the hexipuffs that make up the Beekeeper’s Quilt. Each hexipuff looks and feels very much like a FO all its own, but eventually they are meant to be tied together into a quilt. Since this is such a massive undertaking – requiring hundreds of hexipuffs – it’s not uncommon for each hexipuff to be considered a FO just so you don’t have a WIP hanging over your head for years. I am a self-flagellating perfectionist though, so I consider the whole Beekeeper’s Quilt project to be a WIP.
For some the WIP status ends as soon as the yarn is off the needles, regardless of the ends that need weaving in or the blocking that needs to be done. For me, it’s not done until all ends are woven in, any buttons or embellishments have been added, and it’s been blocked, photographed, and all info is up-to-date on the Ravelry project page. Again, self-flagellating perfectionist. Your mileage may vary.
You may have picked up on my not-so-subtle hints throughout the post that sometimes knitters can have a bit of a complex about their WIPs. If there are too many WIPs hanging around it can be a source of shame and embarrassment. There are some very disciplined souls who only work on one project at a time, never casting on anything new until the last project is finished (whatever their definition of “finished” is). I get the feeling they are the minority though. Most knitters lament the fact that no matter how shamefully tall their pile of WIPs gets they still can’t stop themselves from casting on that shiny new pattern they just found.
I don’t have as much of a problem with starting too many things at once, my problem is more that I tend to speed through the knitting part of the process – my favorite part – and then drag my feet for the finishing process. My pile of WIPs is usually comprised almost entirely of things waiting to be blocked.
I’m going to start trying to reduce the size of that pile. Next week I will be introducing WIP-Cracking Wednesdays in which I will bring out my five oldest WIPs and show you just how pathetically close some of them are to being finished. Perhaps the public shaming will help motivate me to actually finish them.